From a problem with the toilet in the Crew Dragon capsule SpaceX The group of four astronauts will have no bathroom option.
On their return trip from the International Space Station this month, these crew members will have to wear “underwear” to work around the problem, Steve Stich, manager of the Commercial Crew Program at the company, told reporters Friday. NASA.
SpaceX first detected a problem in the bathroom of its spacecraft last month while inspecting a separate Crew Dragon capsule that was normally used.
The company realized that a tube used to channel urine into a storage tank had chipped and a dirty puddle was hidden under the capsule’s floor. It was a discovery that affected all three spacecraft operated by the company.
NASA has not said how long the four astronauts – Shane Kimbrough and Megan MacArthur of NASA, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency and Akihiko Hoshide of Japan – will be allowed to stay on the four-metre-wide Crew Dragon capsule with inactive bathrooms. Will happen. .
So far, only two Crew Dragon spacecraft have returned from the ISS with people on board – the first return journey took 19 hours, while the second took just six hours.
The duration of the journey depends on several factors, including orbital dynamics and weather. “We’re always working to reduce the time from space station docking to landing and that’s what we’re going to do with this flight,” Stitch said.
The problem arose in the Crew Dragon bathroom during SpaceX’s Inspiration 4 mission in September, which took four people into orbit on the first tourist-only mission, which lasted three days.
Jared Isaacman, the commander and funder of the Inspire 4 mission, as it was named, told CNN Business An alarm sounded during the mission last month, alerting the crew of a faulty bathroom fan.
According to his account, he and his fellow passengers had to work on the ground with SpaceX controllers to momentarily resolve the problem.
The incident did not cause any serious problems to the Inspiration 4 mission team, nor was there a leak of bodily fluids inside the capsule. But after the Inspiration 4 crew returned to Earth, SpaceX destroyed its spacecraft to see what could go wrong.
“A tube was cut from the urine storage tank,” said William Gerstenmaier, a former NASA director who now serves as SpaceX’s chief of mission assurance. was turned to.”
Such vulnerabilities can arise even after the spacecraft has completed all required test flights, been screened and approved, and has even completed missions.
Fans in spacecraft bathrooms are used to create suction and control the flow of urine, because in the microgravity environment of space, waste can (and does) move in all possible directions.
In the particular case, the Inspire 4 crew did not see any excrement floating around the cabin because the leak still ran into fenced areas under the floor, Gerstenmaier said.
SpaceX is working to clean up and fix the problem on the Inspiration 4 spacecraft, called Resilience.
A new Crew Dragon capsule, called Endurance and scheduled to carry four more astronauts to the ISS on Wednesday (3), will fly with the reinforced sealing system.
Four astronauts returning to Earth have been aboard the ISS since April. During this period, the Crew Dragon Endeavor capsule remained attached to the ISS, serving as a lifeboat ready to take them home.
When astronauts recently inspected the capsule, they found evidence of a leak in the toilet and urine on the walls. But since they’re still in space, they can’t fix the problem right away.
Since the space station has its own toilets, problems in the capsules will only be a hindrance on the return journey (which could happen later this week, according to NASA), when they will have to rely on temporary clothing options. .
Although less comfortable, the spacecraft will not compromise its safety on the return journey. SpaceX has conducted several ground tests to ensure that the aluminum frame of Crew Dragon can hold leaked urine and that the substance does not become dangerously corrosive.
To do this, SpaceX researchers coated some pieces of metal in urine mixed with oxone (the same substance used to remove ammonia from urine on Crew Dragon) and found only limited corrosion upon exposure to aluminum Gone, Gerstenmaier said.
“We’re going to check everything three times, and we have some more samples that we’ll take from the chambers and inspect,” he said last week. “But we will be ready to go and make sure the crew is safe to return.”
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